Monday, 21 January 2013

Great Alpine Walk: day 4

Breakfast was scheduled for 7:00am this morning so we set the alarm on my phone for 6:00am. It seemed to go off awfully early!
Today we were leaving Falls Creek so our bags had to be packed as well as us getting ready for the days walk. Organising the bag was a challenge. I was also aware of what I would be carrying in my day pack and removed the wet weather gear on the principle that the sky was clear and no rain was forecast for anywhere near us.

View from our window at Diana Lodge, Falls Creek
I just about choked on my calcium tablet which was not a good start to the day. My nose was running, too. Unwell? I hoped not.

Breakfast was another good spread. I opted for scrambled eggs and tomato again and also had some yoghurt to make up for the calcium tablet. We also collected our lunch. A number of people had observed that they could not eat all their lunch as the rolls were far too big. I have to agree. I didn't manage to finish my rolls on any of the days that Lisa supplied them.

Back in our room we finished packing and carried our bags up stairs (two flights) to be loaded in the trailer for the trip to Dinner Plain.

We were all on the bus ready to go by 8 o'clock. It looked like a perfect day for hiking. Trevor and I both opted for long pants, long sleeved shirts and gaiters and were thankful that we did. Those pesty March flies did not have a feed at our expense and the grass and other vegetation didn't attack our legs with gay abandon. I think we will be wearing longs over the next two days for same reasons: grass and insect attacks.

Pretty Valley Pondage
We trundled out to Pretty Valley and started our walking at the Pretty Valley Pondage. The whole group was doing the first bit of the walk which took us along the Fainter Fire Trail until it met a track that took us down to the Australian Alps Walking Track. The fire trail was a steady climb. As we crested each rise we were confronted with yet another. It just kept on going up.

At the fire trail junction those who opted for the easy day went off with Maria while eleven of us trooped off with Phil, headed for Hotham. The Hotham group had been warned that they would cover just over 19km for the day and have a height gain of 1020m and a descent of 800m Definitely a challenge for the legs.

The day grew warmer as we proceeded with just the odd fluffy white cloud.

On reaching the junction with the Australian Alps Walking Track we headed for Hotham. We were to follow the track all the way to the village. Initially the country was very flat. Someone described it as a giant football field. It probably would not have been too good for football as it was covered in a range of plants causing the surface to be quite uneven.

Taking a break. Trevor 2nd from left
We did see a couple of Brumbies at a distance ... so we could tick that off.

The array of plants was impressive and the many tiny flowers a delight. I did take photos of a number of them which I will include in due course.

View over the ranges
As we neared Cobungra Valley the track dropped sharply. It was about this time that Phil gave us a lesson in bush tucker. He introduced us to a shrub growing along the path and told us to taste it. He said that we should chew it but could split out the pulp afterwards. The plant turned out to be the native pepper bush and the leaves were firey. Would we trust Phil again? Probably not.

Beware th native pepper bush
Later Phil suggested that the flower of the bluebell was quite edible. While he ate one no one else did.

The species of trees changed as we descended into the Cobungra Valley. I'm not sure which of the eucalyptus became prevalent. It certainly was not the snow gum.

The understory was thick and often intruded on the path, sometimes crossing it, which meant that we had to push our way through.
Fighting our way through the grass and plant invading the path
In order to encourage people to visit the area one of the groups overseeing the area have installed sleeping platforms just above the Cobungra River. To date, three have been installed.

Sleeping patforms
Just before we reached the Cobungra River, river who could well ask, we came to the toilet. Toilets have been provided at quite a number of places in the alpine region and they are certainly a welcome sight. The ones we had previously come across all had a supply of toilet paper. The one at Cobungra had once had paper but, alas, no more. The supply had been exhausted. Just as well we had come prepared!

The river was not much more than a babbling brook but still a pleasant sight. The bed was strewn with large stones and small rocks which meant that there were lots of spots where the water fell trinkling as is flowed downstream.

We crossed it via a bridge and then walked across a flat with tallish grass that intruded on the narrow footpath towards Dibbins Hut and our designated lunch spot. We were not alone as there was a trio of boys there before us. We settled down for lunch spread along the back of the hut, as that was where the limited shade was, or down by the river.
Dibbins Hut
Cooling off in the shade beside the river
Phil and Alec, the youngster of the group at a mere 13 years old, spent their break building a dam in the creek ... moving some of the stones around to form a pool.

Finally we packed up and set off for the climb up to Swindlers Spur. The heat at the start of the climb was sapping. The constant up hill drag in the heat was challenging. There were occasional delightful views when there was a break in the trees. As we neared the top we started to pick up a most welcome breeze. The group became quite strung out as each of us set our own pace on the climb and took rests whenever suitable shade was available. It took about 45 minutes to reach the top of the climb. Unfortuantely my phone app thought that I had only climbed 8m. I know it was much more. I'll check out the stats when I get home to get a better elevation gain figure. According to the map the climb was around 340m. [The climb was at least 344m]

Alec beside the track with a profusion of flowers
Once on the spur the walking became easier. The occasional breeze was wonderful and helped to keep me cool. Unfortunately, the climbing was not over. There were further uphill sections on the spur and later on, too.
Hotham in the distance
When I reached Derrick Hut, quite a new addition to the alpine huts as it had been built around 2004, I waited for a while. There was little external shade. The trio of boys we had met at Dibbens Hut arrived and went into the hut. I cannot recall Phil telling us to stop at the hut so I continued on and was joined by John, one of our group. We continued along the Australian Alps Walking Track, following the poles. The track was quite hard to walk on as it was stoney or rocky. The rocky bits often had shale standing upright. A hard walking surface. In addition, the track is quite narrow and sometimes worn quite deep making it more challenging than other paths we had used.

Once we got within the Hotham Ski Area our climbing did not stop. We eventually ended up on a 4WD track which was rocky and rough and continued to climb. The heat coming up from the track was another problem to contend with.

Still more terrain to cover
When John and I finally arrived at the end of the walk, the zero pole, we had beaten the bus and there was no shade to speak of. We figured that we should be able to grab a cold drink in Hotham and headed into the village. The place was dead with almost nothing open. No cold drinks were available except in a vending machine and we did not have change.

John and I had hoped that the bus would drive through the village on the way to the zero point. Alas that did not happen. Eventually Phil phoned me. Fortunately I had turned flight mode off so I was able to get the call. The bus duly picked us up in downtown Hotham.

I had walked some 18.8km today with an elevation gain of at least 921m and a fall of 738m. It was hot making the climb quite tough. All in all a very demanding walk.

We were staying out at Dinner Plain, some 13kms out of Hotham. Dinner Plains is a picturesque village with quaint buildings. It, too, was pretty dead. Rundell's, where we were staying is open year round and we seemed to be the only guests. After showering we headed out to explore the village and concluded that even things that should have been open were closed. There was a pizza joint and the pub operating after 5pm. We were not concerned as we were eating at Rundell's and what a wonderful meal they served.

Stuffed to the gills well watered we headed off to bed.

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